WORCESTER, MA Important new research from UMass Medical School demonstrates how exosomes shuttle proteins from neurons to muscle cells where they take part in critical signaling mechanisms, an exciting discovery that means these tiny vehicles could one day be loaded with therapeutic agents, such as RNA interference (RNAi), and directly target disease-carrying cells. The study, published this month in the journal Neuron, is the first evidence that exosomes can transfer membrane proteins that play an important role in cell-to-cell signaling in the nervous system.
"There has been a long-held belief that certain cellular materials, such as integral membrane proteins, are unable to pass from one cell to another, essentially trapping them in the cell where they are made," said Vivian Budnik, PhD, professor of neurobiology and lead author of the study. "What we've shown in this study is that these cellular materials can actually move between different cell types by riding in the membrane of exosomes.
"What is so exciting about this discovery is that these exosomes can deliver materials from one cell, over a distance, to a very specific and different cell," said Dr. Budnik. "Once inside the recipient cell, the materials contained in the exosome can influence or perform processes in the new cell. This raises the enticing possibility that exosomes can be packed with gene therapies, such as RNAi, and delivered to diseased cells where they could have a therapeutic effect for people."
Discovered in the mid-80s, exosomes have only recently attracted the attention of scientists at large, according to Budnik. Exosomes are small vesicles containing cellular materials such as microRNA, messenger RNAs (mRNAs) and proteins, packaged inside larger, membrane-bound bodies called multivesicular bodies (MVBs) inside cells. When MVBs containing exosomes fuse with the cell plasma membrane, they release these exosome vesicles into the extracellular spa
|Contact: Jim Fessenden|
University of Massachusetts Medical School